Domaine Combier: A record harvesting time for the 2018 vintage “to avoid extremes”


As we enter autumn, with the harvest now safely gathered in the cellar, Julien, David and Laurent Combier have been reflecting on the 2018 vintage at Domaine Combier in Crozes-Hermitage. It was a highly demanding vintage, requiring great precision in each decision and a very watchful eye during periods of extreme weather to coax the best from Nature and the harvest.

After a mild winter, bud break was on the early side. In the absence of a spring frost, the vines began their vegetative cycle wonderfully well. This was followed by several stormy spells between the end of May and the end of June, creating ideal conditions for vine diseases. Given the humidity, the vines also grew quickly, so we had to be very reactive and diligent and put in many long days of hard work to protect them during these periods of extremes. A hot, dry summer then quickly set in, enabling the vines to grow quickly and raising the prospect of a very precocious and high-quality vintage.”

The reaction of the Clos des Grives vines to all these extremes was remarkable. With their capacity for self-regulation throughout the year, they showed their ability to adapt rapidly to changing conditions. The origins of this phenomenon no doubt lie in the 50 years of work in the vineyard, taking care of the soil, the environment and the ecosystem. Our family has always been convinced of the wisdom of this method of working in harmony with Nature, and extreme years such as 2018 confirm it.”

We began harvesting at the beginning of September, with the grapes in perfect condition, degrees that were already high and good levels of balance. The whites, picked in the early hours of the morning to benefit from the cool night temperatures, are showing themselves to be generous and extremely regular in terms of aromatic palette. As for the reds, the first juices are straight away a beautiful violet color, with typical Rhone Valley Syrah aromas. We realized that we had to move quickly to bring in this harvest, since the still very hot weather in September favored a rapid development in both degrees and maturity. So we harvested at a fast pace and in record time to avoid an excess of over-maturity as this would not be in line with the Combier Estate philosophy.”

There was no difficulty with fermentation and pressing is under way. With the first wines passing into barrel they already show the promise of a very fine 2018 vintage.